To hell with American society. Who needed it? How much did he spend in it anyway? The answer really was ‘not much’ but, as he stared at the parchment in front of him, he realised there was a difference between ‘not much’ and ‘none.’ A big, significant birthday shaped difference. Vlad’s birthdays had never been big, grand affairs before. But Vlad had never turned seventeen before. And never would again. It was a big deal. And they were Brockerts. He struggled to know sometimes what that meant with them. Vlad’s parents seemed so relaxed and… and he just plain forgot it sometimes. He thought of quiet afternoons, stretched out on Vlad’s bed and… and he just thought of him as Vlad.
But it wasn’t just him and Vlad any more. He wasn’t in the cosy bubble of Sonora any more, where his friends liked and cared for him, and where they had the autonomy to do as they pleased. It felt like a fragile illusion that they’d had any at all.
He sat at his desk, in his usual room at his grandparents’ house. It was one of the summers they’d been scheduled to visit, but with Matthieu being older now, easy enough to excuse why he couldn’t make it. They were saying he was interning for a friend of Father’s over the summer. Perhaps it was even true. Dorian hadn’t bothered to ask. He had bigger problems, he thought, as he tapped his quill against the still blank parchment, than what his brother was doing. The house around him echoed with the thousands of years of history of the family he belonged to. That world, their interconnectedness to their parents, their past, the expectations that came with that… It had all come rushing back into his life full force. And he couldn’t pretend he was the only one that happened to.
Something about not being able to fix a blank page came drifting back to him. Maybe he should just start to scribble down exactly what he was thinking. He could always incinerate it afterwards if it was beyond saving.
Dear Mrs. Brockert,
I was wondering what the plans are for Vlad’s seventeenth birthday?
I don’t know whether he told you that I’ve been dating a boy. If he didn’t, I guess that someone else has, or they will soon enough. I stopped trying to make it a secret at the end of last year. I imagine this means there are a lot of people in society who no longer regard me as one of them, nor think me an appropriate guest for their functions.
Please understand that I would not ask you to change your plans on account of me. And nor would I want to let Vlad down. But I don’t want to be an embarrassment to you in your own home, or the cause of some unfortunate scene at Vlad’s birthday. He deserves his birthday to be happy and perfect, like he is. Is it going to be better if I stay away?
He dropped his quill. Even that seemed presumptuous. Was he even going to still be invited? Vlad, he thought, wouldn’t want a big, ridiculous party where everyone was stuffy and uncomfortable. Vlad would want him there. But was Vlad going to be the one making the decisions? And again, Vlad’s parents had always seemed like nice, reasonable, caring people. But so had his own, prior to all this.
He imagined her replying. Telling him to stay the hell away from Vlad. What if she wrote to Sonora, and said she didn’t want them to share a room any more? He pushed the paper aside, grabbing a fresh sheet.
Does your mom know about me? Does she hate me now, or is she going to if she finds out? I keep thinking about her trying to stop me seeing you and it’s like I can’t breathe. I wish summer was over, and I was back in Teppenpaw knowing it’s all okay.
He looked at the two letters. He didn’t want to make it Vlad’s problem. But then, it was going to become that. If his mom got angry with him for having unsuitable friends. If she banned Dorian from his birthday party. Would Vlad be mad at him for confessing, wishing he’d just kept his mouth shut and not ruined everything? The thought of Vlad not wanting to talk to him made his stomach twist. He stared at the short, desperate letter to Vlad. At least it didn’t mention his birthday directly. So, Dorian wasn’t ruining that. Yet. And it was everything he wanted and needed to know. Just… perhaps in slightly too intense a format.
He began on a fresh sheet of parchment, detailing what was going on in China. It came out as a fairly dry list of events. He didn’t want to get into the things he was feeling about being here. After a few paragraphs of this, he added an amended version of his first letter. Or rather, more or less the same letter again, just introduced with ‘I was wondering whether…’ and padded with a few more hedges to try to soften the impact.
He burnt the two original letters, and went to find an owl.
The quill moved quickly across the page, but its owner was not the Brockert that one might have expected. Lilac had instructed her son not to reply to his friend’s most recent letter after he had made mention of its contents over dinner that evening. She gave Vladimir a squeeze on his arm and told him that she would take care of it. From the expression on his face, he didn’t seem quite as sure about it - a tragic betrayal of his teenage years, she feared, as previously he would have never had even a shred of doubt in her - but he obliged. Nervous or not, he did still trust her judgment.
She wanted to start with “Dear” or something, but it felt a little odd, addressing her son’s friend that way. Maybe when if the boys grew a little closer - if their relationship changed - then she could do so without feeling like an awkward and intrusive old woman. So for now, Lilac forewent any more introduction than the boy’s name.
My son Vladimir and I are very close. There is not much he keeps from me. That is not to say that he is eager to betray your secrets, but, as I’m sure you know well, Vlad is a sensitive boy, and sometimes he needs someone to confide in or advise him. Yes, I know about you. I know about your family. And I want you to know something: I would absolutely come get you and keep you here with us if I could. It is in poor taste to criticize another family’s structure or values, but I fully believe your family is making the wrong decisions. Who you love shouldn’t be their concern. It definitely isn’t my concern. All that matters is that you are loved well and wholly.
Dorian, you take care of my son. He is a happier and better person because he has a friend like you. You are good to him. Unless that changes, I will always be on your team.
Hopefully you have received your invitation to Vlad’s birthday party. If you haven’t gotten it yet, let me know, and I will send another. You are more than welcome here, anytime. I would request you don’t bring your boyfriend to the party - I want to meet him sometime, but there are others, likely in our own family, who would lean toward your family’s way and not mine. I don’t especially care what they think, but Vlad’s birthday just isn’t the time to get into it. I hope you understand. You are more than welcome to spend a few days here before, after, or any time this summer.
Standing by you,
Mrs. Lilac Brockert.
12Lilac (Crosby) BrockertThat's what mothers are for.23Lilac (Crosby) Brockert05
That was not Vlad’s writing. It looked close. An untrained eye might have assumed it was. Dorian’s eyes were not untrained. They had read six years of letters from his room-mate in the holidays. They had read six years of his homework as they worked side by side in the library. Dorian knew Vlad’s writing when he saw it, and this was not it. This writing was reminiscent of it, but slightly more formal. It matched the lettering that had been on the birthday invite, which was Mr. and Mrs. S. Brockert requesting his presence…
Vlad’s parents were writing back to him. That, surely, answered whether they knew. He sat holding the letter. His hands were shaking. He was quite sure that if a boggart came into this room right now it could not assume any form that frightened him more than the letter in front of him.
But he had to know, and so he opened it.
The first thing to greet him was his own name, blunt and stern with no form of address or appellation, and his heart clenched. He could imagine it being said very sternly.
She knew. Vlad had told her. And in his peripheral vision, he could see the word ‘you’ firmly underlined and ‘criticize’ creeping up and Vlad… Vlad had been so upset or so confused by all this that he’d gone to his mom?
He pressed on. He reread the first paragraph twice to check he had understood. He reread the whole letter two or three times because it was hard to be sure he’d got it right (he had laughed out loud at the idea she thought he might ever presume to bring Jean-Loup to Vlad’s birthday) but then he had to put it away because otherwise the whole thing was going to dissolve under the tears of sheer relief that he was crying.
It had taken him a few days to compose himself and a reply.
Dear Mrs. Brockert,
Thank you for your very kind and supportive letter.
Yes, I received the invite to Vlad’s birthday - I absolutely will be in attendance, and I would not dream of bringing an uninvited guest under normal circumstances, let alone these ones. My formal RSVP is included. I was so worried about whether it would be okay or not for me to come. I didn’t want to let Vlad down but I didn’t want to be the source of some awful scene that stole his attention or embarrassed you. I want his birthday to be happy and perfect, just like he is. I’m glad you think I’m a good influence. That means a lot to me.
You sounded worried about me in your letter. Please don’t be. Mama is keeping me and my brother apart for the summer. I think she wants us to make up but she understands that she cannot force it and that she cannot expect me to be in the same house as him. She and I are talking a little bit more about things. He left it at that, because as far as he was concerned, the presence of conversations at all was progress, however badly they were going. Still, Mrs. Brockert seemed not to approve of how his family was behaving, and he did not want to give her any further reason to disapprove of Mama. I have Émilie here too, and she is on my team.
I would very much like to come and see you and Vlad when I return.
Yours, with gratitude,
A few further letters had been exchanged, with ongoing support, and to arrange the practicalities of when he would visit. And now, it was time. Now he was back, and now he was tumbling from the fireplace, into the familiar living room. He had never missed Vlad so much as he had over the last few weeks. He had been haunted by the twisting anxiety that he might have been shut out of this house forever - for all that it had been short lived, it had left a deep mark in the bottom of his heart, one that still stirred up an ache whenever he thought about that feeling, and one that was only going to be truly and fully exorcised by seeing for real that Vlad was here, and solid, and real.
The world stopped spinning, and there he was. Dorian threw himself out of the fireplace and onto Vlad, gripping him tightly for a moment, his head resting on Vlad’s shoulder. He smelt different when he was at home, but the same feeling of Teppenpaw dorm room calm swept over him, and his shoulders dropped as he untensed. He pulled back, realising that he couldn’t hug Vlad all day, tempting as it was - and in fact that watching him get affectionate with her son might not be something Mrs. Brockert exactly wanted to see. He was about to apologise, when he found himself being swept into a hug by her instead.
It was strange, being nervous to see your own best friend. Vlad did not enjoy the feeling. But he just couldn’t help it - so much had changed, and all within him. It was nothing Dorian had done, or even knew about. Well, maybe it was something that Dorian did. It was the way he smiled. It was the way he made Vlad feel special. It was the way he spoke to everyone like they mattered. Maybe it was the way he put ideas in Vlad’s head. In any case, the stress of the non-platonic secret that Vladimir carried made him just… nervous.
It was relieving that Dorian was still coming, at least. Vlad didn’t know what his mom had said to him in her letter, but she had obviously done enough to reassure him. That wasn’t surprising. Mama was the best. She was great at being a mom, and she mothered anybody and everybody who would let her. And she had “claimed” Dorian. (That was a comforting thought Vlad tried a little to suppress for now, but he did know that if things ever changed between him and Dorian, he had already secured his mother’s approval.)
But then Dorian arrived, and his arms were immediately around him, and it took all of Vlad’s energy not to cry as he hugged back. No matter what was going on, no matter what had happened to Dorian in the past, he was here and he was safe and it was all going to be okay. They let go all too soon.
Vlad was all ready to give a verbal greeting, but the moment their embrace ended, Dorian seemed to disappear. It took the younger boy a moment to figure out where he had gone: instantly clutched into Vlad’s mom’s arms for her own hug. He smiled, his nerves replaced by contentment. Dorian was home. “Hi,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. “It’s good to see you.”
Dorian was slightly taken aback by Mrs. Brockert sweeping him into a hug too but he could not say it was unwelcome. Hugs were just always nice, and it was hard to believe you could have too many. That someone wanted to hug him hello made him feel definitely welcome and like being here was okay and the right decision. He hadn’t had many doubts about that but it was just… good to confirm.
When Mrs. Brockert let him go, he found that Vlad was absolutely beaming at him. It made his own face do the same right back, and he sort of worried he was going to be in trouble for being too happy. He felt there was some degree to which he was here because he needed a place to go, and if everything seemed fine and normal they might wonder why he was bothering them. But at the same time, he was worried he had made Mrs. Brockert worried, and had wanted to convince her that she needn’t be and- he tried to push all these thoughts to the back of his head, tried to tell himself to stop overthinking everything, as usual. It was a lot easier to do that with a smiling Vlad in front of him.
“It’s good to see you too,” he stated, and it was normally the kind of remark that was accompanied by a hug, except he’d just hugged Vlad. His body had naturally gravitated back towards him though, and he stood in front of him with the hug hanging in almost palpably in the air between them. He didn’t want Vlad’s mother to think he was odd though, or be too touchy with Vlad. Or rather… he wanted to, he wanted to just snuggle up on the couch next to him, and feel the constant, solid promise that he hadn’t gone anywhere and wasn’t going to. He just thought that might be inappropriate. “Really good,” he added softly in lieu of the hug he wasn’t giving.
“Thank you for your letters, and for having me to visit,” he added turning to Mrs. Brockert. Vlad was still in his peripheral vision, still there - Dorian did not need to hold onto him to make sure he didn’t vanish, though he rather wanted to.
“Things are okay at home - I don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen,” he clarified, mostly speaking to Mrs. Brockert because she was the one he’d written to - though his eyes did keep flicking back to Vlad as he spoke. He was having trouble finding the words, even though he’d been thinking about what to say, imagining different versions of this conversation since he’d started exchanging letters with Vlad’s mother.
He did not want to say that he had been sad or lonely in China, even if it was rather true. He had always loved going there so much. It had always been a fundamental part of who he was. And this time.. It had felt claustrophobic and he had felt suffocated. Like who he was expected to be there was fundamentally different to who he was becoming. He did not want to put that out in the open though. He was hoping it was a feeling that would pass. He couldn’t quite betray or let go of his claim on one of his homes yet. He still wanted to believe he could put all the pieces together in a way where they fit.
He thought that the success of that might depend on Mama. His move at the ball had somewhat forced her hand. This was a fact that there was no taking back now. That meant they had to deal with it. Even if it hadn’t reached Québec society yet, it was out there. It existed. She could hope it all went away, that it never came back to bite him, but she couldn’t stop it being real. The conversations they were having were not easy. But they were having them.
“Mama’s trying,” he informed Mrs. Brockert, aware it was potentially damning her with faint praise. That maybe Mrs. Brockert would think that Mama should do more than ‘try.’ But his tone implied that any counter argument that attacked Mrs. Montoir’s ability to be a parent was not going to win Dorian round. He had pushed through enough heart-wrenching tear-soaked conversations where they were both angry and afraid about what they might be losing to know a few things. Namely that his mother loved him, and that she would absolutely go to war to tear down any obstacle she thought stood in the way of his happiness. Just that she was currently directing all that energy at all the wrong things…
Still. He did not want to say that he had come here for a break, or to breathe, or to find people who supported him.
“I was just… worried. People keep talking like… like I’m throwing my whole life away. And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to-” he swallowed a lump, “I wouldn’t-” he tried, searching Vlad’s face for some sign that he understood that Dorian wouldn’t want to choose anything that pulled them apart from each other. Except it had felt like he’d done just that, like he was going to come back, and find that his friends and their families had closed every door in his face. “I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t trust you not to be there for me. I know. You and Tatya both- I just needed to-” he struggled for a word that didn’t make it sound exactly like he had doubted them. There was a difference between knowing something in your head and having it where you could see and touch though. It was like when you woke from a bad dream though, and part of you knew it wasn’t real but it was a lot harder to tell yourself that than to just… illuminate your wand, and check there really were no monsters there, “to come back, and see you. It’s good to see you.”
Vlad was someone who did his best not to think too much. As he had demonstrated to himself - especially recently - things could get complicated when too much thinking got involved. Instead, he always led with his heart. He followed his feelings and tried not to analyze. This was something he had learned from his mother, and he had always felt Dorian understood and maybe even mirrored the behavior. Maybe that was why they got along so easily and immediately when they were little boys.
But he could feel Dorian thinking and overthinking and overoverthinking. It was clarification and nerves, and Vlad hated that for him. He hated that Dorian had to choose his words so carefully - he should have just been able to follow his heart and say whatever it told him. Or maybe he was and Vlad was the one who was actually thinking too much. But either way, something just felt off here.
Lilac did not notice this. She was too invested in the words, listening closely to ensure Dorian’s safety and happiness were intact. She was glad to hear his mother was trying - it wasn’t an ideal phraseology, but for now, it was all they could hope for, really. It was sort of a big adjustment, or at least it could be. Lilac had just known this type of fact about her son for far longer, and before Vlad had even known, so there wasn’t as much of a “coming to terms” process for her. She understood that he was less likely to bring her grandchildren someday, and that unless one of her daughters shared a similar trait to their brother, Lilac was probably not going to have a daughter-in-law anytime in the future. But that didn’t matter to her. She accepted those tradeoffs in exchange for Vladimir to be happy and true to himself. Most mothers would, she thought. All anybody ever wanted for their children was for them to be happy. They just had to learn to let them do it on their own terms.
The rest of the conversation wasn’t for her, and she knew that. Lilac smiled that understanding smile. “I’m going to go make sure your room is ready,” she nodded to Dorian. “Why don’t you boys go check on the decorations in the ballroom? Make sure they’re to your liking, huh?”
“Thanks, Mama,” Vlad smiled back.
“Konechno,” his mother replied with a wink. “Ty vedesh’ sebya, zaychik.” And she was gone.
Vlad froze in a panic for a second. His mother had no idea how much Russian Dorian had picked up from Tatiana. But he tried to brush it away, hoping Dorian wouldn’t understand her playful implications. “So, uh, t-to the ballroom?”
OOC: Translation: “Of course. You behave yourself.” Zaychik is a pet name Lilac calls Vlad.
Dorian was slightly surprised as Mrs. Brockert left. He almost didn’t want her to. Her letter had reminded him somewhat of the way Professor Brooding talked to him, and he associated that with safe, comfortable adults who swept in and made it all better. He wanted her to stay and do the same.
“O-kay. Thank you,” he managed haltingly.
He was caught off guard as a familiar language appeared, in an unfamiliar context. He was still blinking and processing it (and her accent) as she left.
“You… do some verb yourself,” he shrugged, “Small rabbit,” he added, a hint of wistfulness in his voice. It wasn’t like he didn’t know that Vlad got called that at home too. Just, right now, the casual, uncomplicated way Vlad had been called that stirred something a little like jealousy inside his chest. “I guess Tatya didn’t teach us Mama style Russian,” he added with a smile. The word had been half familiar. Like he might have heard it before, but when he tried to run it through his head in Tatya’s voice, it didn’t sound right either. “From the look on your face, she told you off,” he added teasingly. He could not imagine Vlad really doing anything to earn a rebuke, and assumed that whatever it had been had been playful.
“Yes?” Dorian agreed, as Vlad suggested they went to the ballroom. He wasn’t sure it was his priority, but it was what Mrs. Brockert had told them to do, and what Vlad seemed to want to do, and he didn’t want to be disagreeable. So, two little bunnies went off to the ballroom.
He followed in, after Vlad, looking at the decorations but not really seeing them. He was, instead, greeted by the ghosts of ballrooms past, present and yet to come.
Firstly, there was this very ballroom. So far, none of Vlad’s birthdays had officially been in here, but once Tatya had found out there was a ballroom, she had insisted that it was a waste of both it and a birthday not to use it. They had laughed and twirled each other to whatever music an available adult was able to conjure up, feeling like they were gatecrashing the adult world, even though, of course, no one had been trying to use the room for anything else at the time.
This wasn’t the only ballroom memory that hit him though. He had been afraid of that, when stepping in here, but he had half hoped the memories of this specific ballroom might be stronger. They weren’t. He drifted across to an empty round table at the far end of the room, and instead of imagining the birthday cake that was going to stand on it in a few days’ time, he was standing again in another ballroom, watching a tall, handsome boy pluck a cherry off his own birthday cake, whilst the rest of the guests milled outside and the two of them felt like the only two people in the world…
His shoulders slumped. And he could try to pretend he was happy and alright, and he half wanted to. But he knew that those cracks were going to be visible to Vlad, and that he wasn’t going to be able to open his mouth without his voice betraying him.
“Did I tell you..?” he asked, turning to face Vlad, trying to recall which parts of the story he’d filled him in on, “Jean-Loup - the first time he kissed me was in an empty ballroom. At his seventeenth,” his voice was shaking and his eyes were teary, and this was explained by his next words. “They’re not letting us see each other,” he burst out, tears streaking down his face, as all of the ballrooms of the present came crashing in. “Not properly. But I see him. At parties.” Both sets of parents were still pretending, still taking them out to show them off as if their persuasive efforts to just snap out of this were likely to take effect any moment, and that it would all get to go back to normal. He thought Jean-Loup looked tired and sad as his mother pushed him forward towards one girl after another.
He hadn’t meant to bring his own issues into Vlad’s party. He wanted this to be a happy space, for a perfect birthday. But that, he supposed, was part of why he was here two days early… To get reassurance, and to deal with how everything was making him feel right now so he could hopefully get through the party without having some kind of melodramatic scene. He wanted to say he was looking forward to Vlad’s birthday, but he was so scared of how everyone there was going to treat him, or that he was going to be some kind of problem. Best to get it all out now.
“I see him with other people. And I want to go up to him, and put my arms around him, talk to him, and show them all he’s mine and I can’t. You cannot imagine-” he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to stop his tears, “Every time I see the person I love, it hurts my heart.”
13Dorian MontoirBallrooms past, present and future1401Dorian Montoir05
Vlad felt his face flush warm at the translation of the nickname. Mama had always babied him, and maybe other boys wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much, but he liked being so close to his mom. Still, she didn’t have to use such cutesy diminutive forms in front of Dorian. Not because the other boy would judge him, but because he might pick up on it himself, and honestly, Vlad wasn’t sure he could deal with that. “She’s teasing me,” he confirmed. “Right, let’s go then.”
Leading the way was practically a formality at this point; Dorian knew the lay of the land well enough. They never spent too much time in the ballroom, but surely Dorian could have gotten there on his own. Their bond had always eclipsed Sonora, with summer and winter visits because that time away was just too long. And then there were letters. Always letters. Always connection. Vladimir was never truly alone with Dorian in his life. It was something quite remarkable, he felt.
But then they got there, and something happened. Something changed. Dorian went away, folding in, and though staring right at him, Vlad could not find him. And then there he was, but he wasn’t at Vlad’s house anymore. Neither of them were. They were back in time, in a different ballroom at a different ball. Dorian was remembering and Vlad had to remember too, had to see it, like he was there, and he didn’t want to see it, and he didn’t want to be there, and he felt like he couldn’t breathe.
Dorian snapped back to the present with tears, and Vladimir hated himself for how a little tiny voice said “Good” because that voice didn’t want Dorian to see Jean-Loup now or ever, ever again. But that was mean and selfish, and he wasn’t going to be those things because if he was, then the rest didn’t matter because he didn’t even deserve Dorian’s love anyway. And Dorian kept going.
“Every time I see the person I love, it hurts my heart.”
Vladimir was a rubber band, bending and stretching to help Dorian as he could, but that was not a length he could stretch. He snapped.
‘Ne mozhet sebe predstavit'?!” He repeated in translation, incredulous. “Moyo serdtse tozhe! moye serdtse! Ya chuvstvuyu eto kazhdyy den', kogda ty govorish' o nem! Kogda ty smotrish' na yego kartinu! Kogda ty na menyasmotrish'! Ya lyublyu tebya, i eto ne chestno!” He was crying by now, his Russian speech distorted. He hadn’t meant to say it in Russian - hadn’t meant to say it at all - but it just wouldn’t stay inside him anymore. “Nechestno, kak ya dolzhen pritvoryat'sya, potomu chto ya slishkom boyus' poteryat' tebya! No ya bol'she ne mogu etogo delat'! Ya ne mogu! Ya ne budu meshat', no my mozhem, pozhaluista, prosto ne govorit' o nem?!”
In an instant, his chest felt lighter, but his body felt heavy, hot with dread for the next moment. How much would Dorian recognize? How much was too much? And how much had he just terrified him? “I-I’m really sorry,” he said weakly, almost a whimper. “I didn’t mean to-... I just… I hate that you’re hurting so much. It all hurts me, too, but… but that isn’t fair of me. I'm sorry, Dorian. So sorry.”
He hoped Dorian didn’t understand. He hoped Dorian understood.
OOC: Translation: “Cannot imagine? My heart too! My heart! I feel it every day when you talk about him! When you look at his picture! When you look at me! I love you and it isn’t fair! It isn’t fair how I have to pretend because I’m too afraid to lose you! But I can’t do it anymore! I can’t! I won’t get in the way but can we please just not talk about him?!”
12Vladimir Brockert"Future" may be up to you1400Vladimir Brockert05
Of all the reactions Dorian might have expected, it was safe to say that this would not have been one of them.
Firstly, Vlad’s Russian had got good. Like… surprisingly good. He’d had a head start with understanding over Dorian, but neither of them had gone in being able to speak much. Now, apparently, Vlad could yell at him in it.
That was the second, much bigger problem. Vlad was yelling. Vlad. Yelling. Tatya yelled. Émilie yelled. Lately, sometimes, even Mama yelled. Vlad did not yell. He didn’t sound angry as such, more… heated. But it was Vlad. His voice was supposed to be soft and soothing. He was the calm person. He was the shelter that Dorian came back to when the world got too much. And… and somehow Dorian had broken that to pieces, the way he was breaking everything lately. The same way, in fact. By talking about his boyfriend.
Dorian had some experience with fast and angry Russian. He had spent six years with Tatya. However, the things she was usually angry about were other people, or English spelling. He could decode ‘tak mnogo slov’ in his sleep, and he knew ‘Glupyy professor. Glupoye esse. Etot alfavit ne imeyet smysla.’ He also expected Tatya to yell.
He was less familiar with the things Vlad was yelling about, or the experience of Vlad yelling, and the fact that the yelling was about and directed to him. That was all very thoroughly in the way of his thinking.
He caught snatches though.
My heart. …. Every day….. Talk about him….Look at his picture. When you look at me. I love you. Afraid. Cannot do. Cannot… won’t- not? Please don’t talk about him.
Dorian recoiled. And the tears streaking down his face were nothing to do with what was happening at home any more. Or maybe they were. Because ‘I love you. But I’m afraid. Stop it, stop it, stop it’ all sounded very familiar.
“You sound like Mama,” he said. And this was clearly an accusation not a compliment, “You… you love me, but what? Only if I stop behaving like this? Only if I pretend to be something I am not?” He tried to recall Mrs. Brockert’s letters. He had formed the impression that she thought differently. That this was really totally and one hundred percent okay here, so long as he didn’t disrupt the party. Maybe he had misread. Maybe Vlad didn’t share her attitude. It felt like he had though, at one point. Dorian remembered sitting on his bed in Teppenpaw, a hint of a patronus dancing around him. He had been so purely happy. And Vlad had come in and had shared that. Had asked to know all about it. Had got over the idea that it was another boy in about two seconds.
“When I first told you… You were happy for me. You wanted me to tell you about it. You suppor-” he cut himself off because he couldn’t bear the idea that all of that was past tense. “What changed?” he asked.
13Dorian MontoirDoesn't sound like you want one140105
Somehow he got what he wanted - Dorian understood and yet he didn’t - but it was pretty much the worst thing that had ever happened.
“Dorian, no! It’s not like that!” Vlad’s hand ran through his hair, then settled there, holding tightly, its twin on his hip, and he began pacing a small line. The accusation hurt more than anything ever had, like a fire in his chest, and the walking kept him upright while also letting the building frustration have some slight form of release.
There was very little in the world he wanted to do less right now than elaborate on his feelings, but he had outed himself, and he had no choice. He spoke quickly while he walked, unable to look at Dorian anymore. He couldn’t watch him cry, couldn’t see the pain he had caused him. “I love who you are. You know I do. You know that. It isn’t that you’re dating Jean-Loup and I think that’s wrong or something. It’s that you’re dating Jean-Loup.” He stopped abruptly, both in speech and motion. He dared to look, for just a moment. ‘Dorian, I want you to be dating me.”
He stared a little too long, his eyes stuck there. This was wrong in every way except the one Dorian thought. It was wrong because Dorian and Jean-Loup were happy and committed, and because Vlad was his friend and his roommate and was supposed to be happy for him. But he wasn’t, because he was a selfish and terrible friend.
“I didn’t want to say anything because you made a choice and you love each other.” It hurt to say. It all hurt. “But I. Love. You. Now like a friend. Not like your mom. Like Jean-Loup. And it’s been killing me this whole time. S-so…” His strength went with his words, and with it gone from him, he withered. His head drooped, his shoulders fell, and the tears silently returned. “So I just d-don’t want to talk about him anymore. Okay?”
12Vladimir BrockertYou should brush up on your Russian.140005
No? It wasn’t like that? Dorian clutched with both hands at the sliver of hope, even as Vlad began to pace, and to do stressed things with his hands, and it was still all wrong, Vlad being like this. Vlad was never like this. And he, Dorian, had caused it. He had not wanted any more fights, any more disagreement. However much he tried to convince himself there was nothing wrong with who he was, it was so much harder to keep that doubt at bay when it felt like he had a toxic influence on almost every relationship that mattered to him, just by virtue of being himself. But Vlad had said it wasn’t like that?
It was not like that.
It was very, very different.
Dorian had two immediate thoughts, both of which he bit back.
The first of these was ‘No you don’t.’ Vlad couldn’t- didn’t- it just seemed impossible. He… he had seen Dorian, and got… jealous of him having someone. He had been worried that Dorian wouldn’t have time for him any more. Dorian had been going around being gay and had put the stupid idea to do the same into Vlad’s head somehow because there was no way that this just… was. But he’d been listening to someone else say all the same things to him this summer. You’re seventeen. You don’t know what you want. You don’t understand… You’re going to snap out of this. You should snap out of this. Those things hurt.
The second thought was ‘Your mom is going to kill me.’ His eyes drifted for a moment to the ceiling, imaging Mrs. Brockert making up his bed, and how little she would want him anywhere near her child if she knew the truth. Part of him knew that it wasn’t fair, and that he hadn’t done this to Vlad. He had been having the same fight with his Mama, that how he was was not Jean-Loup’s fault. But two things stopped that from being comforting. One, that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to have to have exactly the same fight from the opposite perspective with Mrs. Brockert and two… hadn’t he? With himself, he at least knew it wasn’t true. He had crushed totally, utterly and hopelessly on another boy before Jean-Loup had even come on the scene. But what if this was entirely his fault?
His stomach twisted at the thought that he’d lost the one safe place he had to stay, but he pushed it aside. It didn’t set him much further back than he’d already been. And he was fine at home… And he could be terrified and could beg Vlad not to tell his mom later. Right now there was a more pressing issue. Which was that Vlad was crying.
He wanted to refute the fact that he had made a choice. He hadn’t exactly known Vlad was an option. He hadn’t chosen Jean-Loup over him- but that sounded… wrong. It sounded like he was saying… It just sounded like a not good thing to say. It was hard to think. He was so dead if Vlad’s mom walked in on this conversation.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, “Both types,” he clarified, “I am sorry that you have a hurting heart and a bad situation. And I am sorry that I did it, even by accident. I… I would never want to hurt you,” he said. And it sounded so small and inadequate. Because he still had done.
He really, really wanted to put his arms around Vlad. But he remembered all the times sitting in MARS with Jehan. Every time their legs ended up tangled together on the sofa… Every time he’d allowed himself to lean up against him. Every time they’d hugged hello, or anything else… Every one of those had felt so perfect and precious because he was touching the person he wanted. And every one of them had stabbed at him with needles of anguish and longing because it wasn’t enough. And he’d been afraid too. Afraid that he would slip, and not be able to keep his feelings on the inside, and would do something he was not supposed to. They had been complicated hugs. He did not want to give Vlad complicated hugs. He hated the thought that something like that might have been taken away from them. All summer long, he’d been scared of losing Vlad. And what if it was about to happen in a totally different way than the one he’d been keeping an anxious watch on?
He wanted Professor Brooding. He wanted her to be here, and to know what to do because he sure as hell didn’t. But, unless he melted down to the point of complete loss of control, she was very unlikely to appear. He tried to think through every useful thing she’d ever told him, because now it was up to him to do some rescuing. It seemed a lot, lot more perilous. Because he was the one who had made it happen. Because he was so woefully underprepared to be the adult. Because it was Vlad.
“It will be okay,” he said as steadily as he could. “I know… I learned a lot about feeling really, really bad about things. And I learned that, even though it doesn’t feel like it will be okay again, it will be. Do you… do you want to talk about it?” he asked. “Or… want a hug?” he added. “It’s… it’s okay if you don’t,” he added sadly.
13Dorian MontoirI think I did pretty well under the circumstances140105
Vlad was hollow. This was not what he wanted. He didn’t want Dorian’s guilt or hurt or… or maybe pity? He couldn’t tell. It was all so heavy, and he felt tired. He wanted to lay down, preferably in his bedroom alone forever or maybe even just here on the floor if he didn’t think he could get that far or his loved ones would uphold the “forever” distinction.
He supposed maybe it was good to get everything out in the open, even though it felt so bad. Honestly was important, and he was good to let Dorian know where they stood, even if it meant letting him know who Vlad was. Not that Dorian, obviously and of all people, would have any qualms. But it was new to Vlad, something only Mama knew. He didn’t know if he was really ready for other people to know too. Dorian wouldn’t tell, though. Dorian understood. When the time was better - alone in their dorm at school, maybe - Vlad would reiterate the secrecy. But he knew he didn’t really need to. He just had to say it at some point.
Dorian asked if he wanted to talk, and Vlad just shook his head. He didn’t want to talk anymore. But he did want the hug, and he nearly collapsed into Dorian’s arms to take it. There, it was safe, despite it all. And he cried, silent but physical sobs of both hurt and relief. Like Dorian said, it would all be okay again. The younger boy squeezed tighter, an almost desperate cling. His seventeenth birthday was coming very soon, and standing here in its oncoming shadow, Vlad knew his youth was ending, and his innocence was fading.
12Vladimir BrockertThese sure are some circumstances we're in.140005